Is Back Pain the Sign That It’s Time to Quit Smoking?


It may sound far-fetched, but research has shown that smoking cigarettes can increase your risk of experiencing back pain.
Many people may be aware that smoking is hazardous to your health. Along with the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, smoking also links with skin conditions.
Research has shown that smoking or using tobacco products can lead to premature aging. Likewise, in some cases, people who smoke have a heightened risk of skin cancer and may have weakened immune systems.
But there are other more surprising side effects related to smoking. In particular, people might be shocked to find that back pain can be a side effect of smoking.
Understanding the link between smoking and back pain, and committing to quitting smoking, can be important steps to improve your overall health and wellness. Keep reading to learn more.

Does smoking cause back pain?

Does smoking cause back pain?
Back pain might seem like an odd side effect of smoking, but research shows that cigarette use can contribute to back pain.
Does this mean you’ll immediately experience aches and pains with that first puff? No, it doesn’t. But chemicals released from cigarette smoke can interfere with bodily functions and contribute to back pain.
Specifically, many of the ingredients found in tobacco smoke can cause arterial damage, which affects blood flow. In particular, your blood can become less effective at delivering critical nutrients to various body parts.
For your back, this means your spine and the disks that cushion the individual vertebrae may not receive adequate blood flow. Low back pain is among the most common forms of back pain and links to smoking through research.
Over time, that reduced blood flow can manifest as low back pain or even osteoarthritis. The damage can be profound in your back since this body region usually receives reduced blood flow, even in nonsmokers.

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Studies on smoking and back pain

Studies on smoking and back pain
Many recent studies have investigated the health effects surrounding increased back pain and smoking.
A link between cigarette frequency and back pain
A 2016 study reviewed data collected from more than 34,000 adults in a 2012 National Health Interview Survey. In this cross-section of U.S. adults, researchers divided the respondents into “never-smokers,” “current smokers,” and “former smokers.”
Within the surveyed group, more than 10,000 or 28% of participants confirmed that they experienced back pain for at least one or more days within the past 3 months.
Of the group that experienced back pain, 23.5% were never smokers, 33.1% were former smokers, and 36.9% were current smokers. The slightly higher percentage of current smokers can lend credibility to the theory that smoking increases a person’s risk of experiencing back pain.
The study also found a positive relationship between a higher number of cigarettes smokers consumed daily and an increased likelihood of back pain. Within the group, the average number of cigarettes smoked by daily smokers who experienced back pain was 13, but the group of daily smokers without back pain had an average of 10 cigarettes.
What about pain perception?
As if experiencing back pain isn’t enough, some studies suggest that smoking can also rewire the brain, influencing how it perceives pain. Simply put, smoking can reduce a person’s ability to withstand discomfort, making them more likely to perceive discomfort as more painful.
A small 2014 study involved 68 subjects who self-identified as having subacute back pain (SBP) or chronic back pain (CBP). Participants also had to get routine MRI scans to match brain activity with reported pain.
Both the SBP and CBP groups had a higher segment of smokers, even though pain perception didn’t significantly deviate between the smoking and nonsmoking participants.
However, for the SBP group, smoking did influence whether a participant continued to experience pain by the end of the 1-year study. The researchers mentioned that the brain scans demonstrated this relationship between persistent symptoms and smoking. This was most likely due to how habit-forming substances influence brain function.

Treating back pain from smoking

Treating back pain from smoking
For smokers, one of the great ways to reduce back pain can be to quit smoking. Many of the studies listed above noted that when participants quit smoking, the intensity and likelihood of back pain dropped dramatically.
Learn more about ways to quit smoking.
However, along with smoking cessation, smokers experiencing back pain may want to consider working with a doctor to create a pain management plan.
Diagnosis might involve a physical exam to look for changes in posture or bone structure, as well as diagnostics which can include imaging such as MRIs or CT scans. Some people can manage back pain with at-home solutions like:
over-the-counter pain medications
gentle exercise
hot and cold therapy
physical therapy

Is Back Pain the Sign That It’s Time to Quit Smoking? dietbab healthinfo

Resources for quitting smoking

Resources for quitting smoking
Quitting smoking can be hard, so taking advantage of resources that can make the process easier is a good idea. While some people can quit cold turkey, enrolling in a cessation program might be a better option for others.
Also, you may want to consider cessation medications, like gums and patches, which can help you gradually reduce your nicotine dependence.
Consider accessing some of the resources below provided by, the official resource of the U.S. government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other organizations. Alternatively, you can ask your doctor about local cessation programs in your community or state.
Food and Drug Administration
American Lung Association
Quit Smoking Hotline: 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669)


You might already know that smoking isn’t good for your health. But low back pain and even sciatica might also occur from smoking cigarettes.
Reduced blood flow leads to fewer nutrients delivered to your spine, which results in a higher risk of back pain. Meanwhile, because nicotine and other chemicals tobacco releases interfere with brain function, smoking can even influence how you perceive pain.
If you haven’t already planned to quit and experience back pain, quitting may be the key to finding relief from back pain.

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